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イケてる is defined by tangorin as such:

noun, or verb acting prenominally: cool;  with-it;  turn-on;  sexy

As a noun I can see it as "the state of being cool," as perhaps shown in the following example:

イケてるというのは中身のある人間のことだと思います。 外見で人間は測れません。

Being cool is about what is inside someone. You can't judge someone on appearance.

*note: This example was from the Hiragana Times and thus may not have been written by a Japanese author. If it strikes you as unnatural, please say so. The translation is mine.

As a prenominal verb there is this example:


I was thinking that it was all just countryside around here, but I didn't know there was such a cool place like this.

I understand these usages, however, the word itself confuses me.

What is the etymological origin of the イケ?

As a verb, is イケてる an abbreviated version of イケている?

Can it be reduced further (to the "dictionary form" of the verb) or is イケてる the "original starting point" of the word? (In the way 食べる is the starting point here: 食べる→食べている→食べてる)

Can イケてる/イケている be applied equally among genders?

Is it related to 行ける? (The ichidan verb meaning → : to be good (at);  to go well; —Colloquialism. .... to look (taste, etc.) good)

zokugo-dict.com says that it came from a Fuji TV variety show in the 90's, and that it is a variation of the verb いかす, meaning to be cool or stylish (or is it related to 生かす · 活かす?).


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gogen-allguide also has an entry for イケてる: gogen-allguide.com/i/iketeru.html – snailplane Dec 3 '12 at 3:07
イケ (てる) メン ? ? ? – oldergod Dec 3 '12 at 7:59
is イケてる an abbreviated version of イケている?>> Yes... イケてる is not a noun, is it? I think it can be a verb or an adjective (like 生きてる, 輝いてる, 壊れてる...) – user1016 Dec 3 '12 at 8:55

I am not sure where you are confused.

  • All Japanese etymology sources I saw say it comes from いかす "to be cool" via the transformation


  • 行ける also have the meaning "to go well/to look good" and my conjecture is that it was taken up into the dictionaries at the third last step of the sequence above.
  • I have only heard it being used as a verb, but there are some examples with the object particle を attached, which may only happen, when in such cases イケてる is regarded as a noun. At heart, however, イケてる wants to be a verb.
  • イケてる is clearly a contraction of いけている, as common for all verbs.
  • イケてる can be used irrespective of gender and also for objects, concepts, etc. The reason why イケメン is gender-specific, is not because of イケ but because of メン from the English "men" (sing. man).

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If someone sees a lover in sexy underwear and exclaims "イケてる!" maybe this can be seen as a noun, in the sense that one could translate it as "What a turn-on!" But I agree, I think of it more as just "sexy/cool" – yadokari Dec 3 '12 at 22:56
I agree with the gender-specificity of イケメン and that it comes from "men", but I always thought there was a wordplay implied, i.e. イケ面, good looking face – dainichi Dec 4 '12 at 1:27
@dainichi I saw your post on the question about イケメンand am really quite fond of your explanation. I just didn't mention it here, because this is a question about イケてる only and the wordplay does not affect the gender-specificity of イケてる or イケメン. – Earthliŋ Dec 4 '12 at 2:28

The website you cited claims that it was originally used in the Japanese military and comes from 「いかせる」 which is an euphemism for causing someone to orgasm (which is still used btw.). It also says that by 1958 it was already in wide use.

Makes a lot of sense to me.

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thank you that is interesting – yadokari Dec 3 '12 at 21:42

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